Education

Find out where Wake County could get its next charter high school

Former Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman is a member of the board of directors of Kaleidoscope Charter High School, which wants to open in Morrisville in 2019.
Former Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman is a member of the board of directors of Kaleidoscope Charter High School, which wants to open in Morrisville in 2019. News & Observer file photo

Western Wake County has some of the area’s best high schools, but leaders of a proposed charter school in Morrisville say there’s strong demand for a small, innovative charter high school in the town.

The state Charter Schools Advisory Board voted 9-1 on Monday to recommend that Kaleidsocope Charter High School receive state approval to open in Morrisville in 2019. Kaleidoscope would differ from most Wake County high schools by having a later start time, different daily schedule and what school leaders say is a “student centered” focus on learning.

“There’s going to be enough people in this area, which is a very fast-growing area, that you’re going to appeal to enough people that they’re not going to have a problem with enrollment,” said Steven Walker, vice chairman of the advisory board.

Charter schools are taxpayer-funded schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow. They operate independently of the districts they’re located in.

Morrisville doesn’t have its own high school. But nearby high schools such as Green Hope and Panther Creek rank high on state performance.

But Janet Littlejohn, president of the board of Kaleidoscope, said the school doesn’t expect to have any problems attracting 500 students to the small setting. Most Wake high schools have more than 2,000 students.

“They (parents) want something that is innovative and they want something that is different than a traditional school environment for their students,” Littlejohn said.

The first class would start at 8:45 a.m., compared to 7:25 a.m. at most Wake high schools. The doors would open at Kaleidoscope at 8 a.m. for students to meet with teachers, which is part of the school’s student-centered focus.

Most Wake high schools operate on a “4x4” block schedule with students taking a different set of four classes each semester. Kaleidoscope would offer courses that run the whole school year.

Two former Morrisville mayors, Margaret Broadwell and Mark Stohlman, are also working with Kaleidoscope.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that the State Board of Education will approve the school, which is applying for the fifth straight year to open. The closest Kaleidoscope came was in 2016 when the advisory board voted 7-3 to recommend the school. But the state board rejected the application based on the split advisory board vote.

“There is something to be said for persistence,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the advisory board. “Charter school work takes a fair amount of persistence, and these folks have persisted year after year.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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